|Upset of Bulls gives Rutgers an identity - and shot at conference title and BCS berth|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 19 October 2007 09:15|
Ironically, the Scarlet Knights found their own identity and got back into the Bowl Championship Series chase by knocking off this year's feel-good story - No. 2 South Florida 30-27.
``The No. 2 team didn't win so we're happy,'' defensive end Jamaal Westerman said after the biggest win in school history, at least in terms of ranking. ``We're back on top. This is the '07 Rutgers. It's beautiful.''
It was also somewhat unexpected. This was a team that disappointed early, losing to Maryland and Cincinnati on consecutive weekends at home.
However, the disappointment vanished with the help of some special teams trickery in a nationally televised Thursday night game that ended with students swarming the field and surrounding players as the song ``Celebration'' blared in the background.
The win put Rutgers (5-2, 2-1 Big East) back in the hunt for a conference title and, of course, a major bowl berth.
``It's just another step in the big scheme of things for this program,'' quarterback Mike Teel said after throwing two touchdowns. ``In the last two games, the 2007 version of Rutgers football has showed up and played. We have a long, long way to go, but it's a good step in the right direction.''
For South Florida (6-1, 1-1) it was a major stumble. Not only did the Bulls' eight-game winning streak end, but their hopes for a national title took a major hit.
There is no telling how far the program that made the polls for the first time in its 11-year history will fall in the rankings.
``Our goal has never had anything to do with rankings,'' South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said. ``That's something I don't think about because I have nothing to do with it. Our goal is to win the Big East. That's still our goal and all we are going to focus on.''
South Florida is the 11th top-10 team to fall to an unranked opponent this season, and the third No. 2 team to lose in three weeks, joining California and Southern California.
There are five undefeated teams left in major college football.
The loss also moved Boston College, LSU and Oklahoma into position to move up in the BCS standings.
It also improved Rutgers' chances of returning to the rankings, especially if it can beat No. 9 West Virginia here a week from Saturday.
``We're not trying to prove anything to people, that's our whole thing,'' safety Courtney Greene said. ``It's all about us and we're just trying to find our identity as the '07 team, and the past two weeks we showed everybody what the '07 team was, and that's good enough for me.''
Coach Greg Schiano went out of character against South Florida, seemingly using every trick play in his special teams book.
Jeremy Ito threw a 36-yard pass on a fake punt on the opening series to set up the first of his three field goals. Walk-on quarterback and holder Andrew DePaolo threw his first collegiate pass and found Kevin Brock for a 15-yard touchdown on a fake field goal late in the third quarter to give the Scarlet Knights a 27-17 lead.
Rutgers also blitzed up a storm in the second half, recording five of its seven sacks against Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe. The last two sacks came on South Florida's first play on each of their final two possessions. Both drives started in Scarlet Knights' territory and yielded nothing.
Minutes later, the fans stormed the field, although it felt nothing like a year ago when once downtrodden Rutgers beat then No. 3 Louisville to become the darlings of college football.
``It feels totally different,'' said halfback Ray Rice, who gained 181 yards on 39 carries. ``We played a great team, they went out there and played hard, they're a great opponent. It's always great to have a big win against the number two team in the nation.''
The only major concern for Rutgers heading into next week is Teel. The quarterback has been playing with a sore right thumb and it was obvious it bothered him late in the game, although Teel said it was a bruised right hand.
``I gotta see the trainer and get it evaluated,'' he said. ``It hurt to grab the football and it's going to be sore tomorrow.''
For Rutgers though, very little hurts now.